PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Jon Bon Jovi gave the Philadelphia Soul worldwide recognition. Tony Graziani, Matt D'Orazio and Chris "Money" Jackson made them perfect.
Have a nice day? How about, have a great year.
Bon Jovi knows something about smash hits and his latest one has nothing to do with another No. 1 album. The Philadelphia Soul, which Bon Jovi co-owns, are undefeated (8-0) and the wins are nearly as automatic as the way his rock band pleases frenzied fans at each sold-out show around the globe.
The only team standing in the Soul's way in their path toward perfection: the equally unmarked Dallas Desperados (7-0).
The next matchup in the Dallas-Philly football rivalry is headed indoors for the latest meeting of two undefeated teams in the Arena Football League's 22-year history. The field might be shorter, the rosters smaller and the touchdowns more frequent, but the nasty feelings between the two cities hasn't really changed.
"If there's any team in this city where there's an inbred hatred, it's a Dallas team," said Soul president Ron Jaworski. "I know deep down inside my belly, I look forward to this game because of the great rivalry we had with the Cowboys for so many years."
Jaworski should know as much as anyone what the rivalry means after 10 years as an Eagles quarterback. Now the Soul and Desperados get a chance on national television Monday night to experience the magnitude of a big game. They are the only two undefeated teams left in the AFL and they share the Eastern Division lead.
Bon Jovi has an off day from his band's tour and will fly in to watch the game at the Spectrum. While the showdown is billed as the "Broad Street Brawl," Bon Jovi is trying to downplay the importance of one game.
"It's just another game," he said by phone before a concert in Memphis, Tenn. "It's too early to start thinking about ArenaBowl."
He sure sounds a lot like his good buddy, New England coach Bill Belichick. Belichick never wanted to talk about the Patriots' bid for a perfect season, one that ended with a Super Bowl loss against the New York Giants. So the hard rocker from New Jersey can be understood if he wants to keep that superstition alive.
Still, the season has been a success so far.
"It really is a nice relief to see your team 8-0 instead of 0-8," Bon Jovi said.
Bon Jovi will get to rest his pipes for this one: Philly will have Miss America Kirsten Haglund sing the national anthem.
The Soul reached a perfect mark with the top-scoring offense in the AFL at 66 points per game. Graziani has been sidelined with a knee injury, yet still has 24 touchdowns passes. D'Orazio has ably filled in with 31 TDs and only two interceptions. Jackson, the big free-agent acquisition, has added the deep threat receiver they needed with 29 touchdown catches.
Bon Jovi gave Jackson the nickname "Money" because, "every time I see him, I go, 'There goes my money,'"
"If all my investments had such a high rate of return, I'd be a very wealthy man," Bon Jovi said, laughing.
Graziani is questionable for Monday.
The Desperados swept Philadelphia last season, finished 15-1 in the regular season and are 35-4 in the regular season since 2006. Even with all those wins, quarterback Clint Dolezel knows how much a victory and sole possession of first place in the division would mean to the Desperados — and the blossoming rivalry.
"It's more than that. It's Dallas versus Philly," he said. "I love going to play on somebody else's home field, especially in Philly where they're just going to dog you the whole time."
The Soul have waited five years for a game to mean as much as a Bon Jovi concert.
Bon Jovi and Jaworksi were the faces of the franchise when Philadelphia started AFL play in 2004. Bon Jovi played free concerts for season ticket holders and he and Jaworski's voices were on the radio ads. The pair's role in the promotion of the franchise has diminished — though certainly not behind the scenes — as the team has become the main attraction, regularly packing the arena even in a crowded sports market.
"People came for the two of them. Now they're starting to support our organization because we're winning games," said Soul coach Bret Munsey. "That was kind of the goal of our football team, to get their faces off and have fans show up to support us because we're winning and fun to watch."
The Soul hope for another strong crowd Monday, but might have lost some media and fan attention when the game was bumped across the street from the Wachovia Center to the Spectrum because of a conflict with a Flyers playoff game.
The Soul are happy to share the attention with Philly's Big 4 — and take some of the pressure off them.
Bon Jovi believes an ArenaBowl championship this season should count toward ending Philadelphia's 25-year title drought.
"If the Soul win, it's absolutely over," said Bon Jovi. "We're as much a part of the fabric of Philadelphia sports as the Big 4, we just haven't been here as long. We're not No. 1, so we try harder."
Copyright 2008 The Associated Press.